To a legion of die-hard horror fans, 1985's FRIGHT NIGHT was like a sacred art -- a cult classic and a landmark modern vampire genre that combined Hitchcockian themes and teen-oriented, John Hughes-style comedy drama. No doubt the original FRIGHT NIGHT was a clever presentation that poked fun of the oft-told vampire genre while maintaining its scare factor at the same time. But to me, FRIGHT NIGHT was more of an overrated classic that didn't really lives up to its phenomenal reputation I was hoping for when I first seen the movie. Twenty six years later, Hollywood has finally decided to remake FRIGHT NIGHT for today's generation and I'm sure a lot of eagle-eyed genre loyalists are bracing themselves whether the remake manages to live up to their beloved original or simply a cash-in poor rehash. I'm happy and also very surprise to say that director Craig Gillespie (2007's LARS AND THE REAL GIRL, TV's United States Of Tara) and screenwriter Marti Noxon (TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer) manage to stay faithful while improved upon the flawed original.
High school senior Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) was once a nerdy guy who used to hang out with his childhood best pals, "Evil" Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and Adam (Will Denton). But all that has changed, when he starts dating Amy (Imogen Poots), the hottest and most popular girl in their class. Living in a pitch-perfect suburban home on the outskirts of Las Vegas with his single realtor mom Jane (Toni Collette), everything seems to be a good start for Charley until the arrival of their new, next-door neighbor named Jerry (Colin Farrell). A handsome hunk with a quick smile and a sharp wit, he seems like a nice guy but Charley thinks he's the kind of guy who's actually up to something sinister. Unfortunately his mom hardly thinks so and she's even attracted to his amiable charm. Then something starts to go wrong -- Adam and his family had gone missing, and Ed tries hard to convince Charley that Jerry is actually a vampire. At first, Charley doesn't believe him but when Ed subsequently disappeared as well, he starts to play detective. It doesn't take long before he discovers that Ed was right after all -- Jerry is a vampire. However, Jerry is always one step ahead no matter how hard Charley tries to get rid of him. So he seeks the gothic and leather-clad magician of the occult Peter Vincent (David Tennant) who is a host of a popular show called "Fright Night", to help him eliminate Jerry before it's too late.
Thanks to Noxon's witty screenplay that nicely blends offbeat humor with horror, she also goes a notch above by not cramming too many ideas that plagued Tom Holland's original version of FRIGHT NIGHT. At the same time, she also displays a genuine flair of giving the familiar character with a bit more depth. In this new version, Anton Yelchin's Charley Brewster is more serious-minded, intelligent and conscionable. No doubt Yelchin makes a convincingly solid lead here with a dedicated performance. Equally as credible is Imogen Poots. Despite playing a pretty high school girl role, she could have just rely her attractive looks and do all the talking but Poots provides some level-headed seriousness that makes her character all the more worthwhile. As "Evil Ed, Christopher Mintz-Plasse is perfectly typecast as Charley's nerdy friend, while Toni Collette is reasonably good enough to play as Charley's mom. Then there's David Tennant, who gamely reinvents Roddy McDowell's iconic role as Peter Vincent, with excellent comic timing and he's also perfectly typecast as a wildly offbeat character and a bad attitude (especially with all that leather-clad stage wardrobe, jewelry, wigs and facial hair he had on him).
But of all the characters above, it is Colin Farrell that delivers a true knockout here. His Jerry character is the spine of the movie's success here. Farrell's sneaky performance is wicked enough to watch for. Check out the nail-biting moment in a kitchen scene where Jerry tries to frighten Charley about the danger lurking outside in the neighborhood. It's particularly memorable because the way how Farrell manages to bring shivers to his threatening words without relying on physical suspense to get things done.
In the meantime, Craig Gillespie's direction is impressive. No doubt he's an accomplished visual stylist who knows his way around of staging exciting scenes, heightened with his fluid cameraworks, Javier Aguirresarobe's atmospheric cinematography and Rawin Djawadi's pulse-pounding music score. Among memorable scenes here are the bravura high-speed chase between Charley, his mother, Amy and Jerry on a lonely stretch of a desert road (check out the amazing camerawork where Gillespie moves around the interior of the vehicle). Another one is the all-hell-breaks-loose final scene where Jerry finally turns himself into a full vampire mode (excellent makeup effects, coupled with decent amount of CGI) and a fight-to-the-finish between him and Jerry.
Although there are some glaring flaws in term of pacing in certain scenes, this new version of FRIGHT NIGHT remains one of the best horror remakes in recent times.